INTERVIEW: AJ Johnson fixing lives on TV One’s ‘Life Therapy’

Actress AJ Johnson is also a fitness and life coach who has helped families on her new show "Life Therapy" on TV One. It was taped in metro Atlanta with her studios in Hiram. TV ONE

Credit: TV ONE

Credit: TV ONE

Actress AJ Johnson is also a fitness and life coach who has helped families on her new show "Life Therapy" on TV One. It was taped in metro Atlanta with her studios in Hiram. TV ONE

AJ Akua Johnson has been an actress for decades, notably appearing in “House Party” and “Baby Boy.”

But now she’s filling a gap left behind by Iyanla VanZant, who earlier this year left OWN’s “Fix My Life.” “Life Therapy With AJ Johnson” on TV One, airing Tuesdays, focuses on Johnson’s life, health and wellness coaching, which she has been doing for many years. The show debuted last month and will run 18 episodes.

Her clients over the years, she said, include Gabrielle Union, Tisha Campbell, Nicole Ari Parker and Whoopi Goldberg. She has appeared on relationship shows on MTV, BET and VH1.

“People call me AJ Zone when they’ve tried everything else,” she said.

Not every client is compliant. For an OWN TV show in 2013, Johnson tried to work with Lindsay Lohan but ultimately quit in frustration.

The Spelman College graduate taped the episodes in the fall in and around metro Atlanta with many of the sessions held at Hiram-based ATL Film Studios, which is owned by Atlanta-based Swirl Films, the producers of the show.

“We cover weight loss, infertility, fibroid issues,” Johnson said on set before shooting a scene. “We deal with families in need of healing from losing loved ones. Career changes. The pandemic threw us into such a tailspin. I feel like this show couldn’t have come at a better time.”

She is big on people creating “happy lists.” The idea led her away from full-time acting and toward coaching. She found roaming red carpets was glamorous but not fulfilling.

“This industry has a tendency to be pretty dark and life consuming,” Johnson said. “I needed to find balance for me.”

The show isn’t about non-stop fireworks. She prefers to focus on people who have suffered and are still grappling with trauma and issues but are not in full-blown crisis mode.

And she works hard to make them feel comfortable, even though this could be quite vulnerable: “The first thing I say to each client before the cameras roll that this is not me doing a TV show coaching. I’m coaching and the TV cameras decide it was interesting enough to film. I let people know the work is real, to ignore the cameras.”

Unlike VanZant, who was a solo act on her show, Johnson uses support, bringing in experts to help her learn as well.

A mother in the first episode had trouble connecting with her daughter and didn’t face the issues within herself. Johnson helped them at least take the first steps toward dealing with that blockage. She had another therapist help the mother break down some of the barriers.

“No more living in fear,” Johnson concluded at the end.

In an episode about a daughter who turned her mother in for murder and cult activities and is now more at peace with the situation, Johnson came to the conclusion: “Our healing never stops.”

In this case, she brought in an expert on cults.

“Everyone is susceptible to being manipulated,” Johnson said. “Where that susceptibility comes in is when we don’t have enough self-love. We have to know exactly who we are and what we need.”

One recent episode featured “American Idol” runner-up and Atlantan Willie Spence, who almost died from medical issues regarding his weight and needed some help to move his career to a higher level. She brought in a nutritionist and R&B singer Peabo Bryson to provide advice.

When Johnson finished shooting the first season, she took a direct flight to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. “The beach,” she said, “is my happy place.”


“Life Therapy with AJ Johnson,” 10 p.m. Tuesdays, TV One with new episodes in January